Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014: COMPLETE GAMES #92, #93, #94, #95, #96, #97, #98...

We are closing in on the century mark for CGs now, as a little flurry of them that featured journeymen and youngsters...which leads us to a quick investigation of pitcher age with respect to CGs.

But before we do that (as we simultaneously escape the foul odors of a farting dachshund...), let's call the roll of those who joined the 2014 CG rolls:

--Scott Feldman (#92, 8/30), a three-hit shutout over the Rangers in a 2-0 Astros win.

--Jeff Samardzjia (#93, 8/30), becoming the twentieth pitcher to have "LP" assigned to their CG in 2014, allowing only four hits and two runs over eight innings in a 2-0 loss to the Angels (part of the A's "meltdown weekend" in Anaheim).

--Clay Buchholz (#94, 8/31), adding another Buddah-brow wrinkle to a confounding season, with a three-hit shutout of the Rays (final score: Boston 3, Tampa Bay 0).

--Danny Salazar (#95, 9/3), pitching a good bit better for Cleveland after his return from a two-month demotion to AAA, scattering eight hits as the Tribe beat Detroit, 7-0.

--Miguel Gonzalez (#96, 9/3), a key target of FIP-meister eye-rolling (his ERA is exceeding his FIP at near-record levels...), defying the odds with a four-hit shutout of the Reds in a 6-0 win for the Orioles.

--Tyler Matzek (#97, 9/5), turning things around in his rookie season for the Rockies, surviving a six-game stretch from 7/29-8/25 where his ERA was 6.75, throwing a three-hit shutout in Coors Field, the first complete game tossed there by a Rockies starter in three years.

--Corey Kluber (#98, 9/6), continuing his breakout season in which he's become the Cleveland ace, with his third CG of 2014, a five-hitter as the Indians beat the White Sox, 5-1.

Now to the age thang. Early in the season we noted that younger pitchers were showing up on the CG list in quantities that would be worrisome if CGs weren't so rare. (Still, the cautionary tale is worth at least an allusion, if not a re-tell: on the April list in our chart of 2014 CGs by age, among the four CGs by 23-year-olds is Martin Perez, who threw two of them--and by mid-May was under the knife.)

The question that we might try to answer is whether there's an early-and-late pattern in terms of CGs by young(er) pitchers. Given the query limitations that are in place at Forman et fils, however, that means creating such charts for each individual season, so that project will need to wait a bit....clearly we need at least fifteen years' worth of data to have anything to say about this.

What we can do now is look at the percentages of CGs by age range for the past fifteen years (2000-14). The 2014 chart shows you where our age range breakpoints are: -25 is Age Range 1; 26-29 is Age Range 2; 30-34 is Age Range 3; and 35+ is Age Range 4.

That chart (% of CGs by Age Range from 2000-14) can be seen at left. The numbers bounce around a good bit from year to year, as small samples often will, but the general picture comes into view reasonably well when we look at the data over somewhat longer stretches of time.

Five years seems to be enough to establish the reigning trend, which is that the largest plurality of CGs come from pitchers in their so-called "prime years" (AG 2, ages 26-29), with just under 40%. AG 1--the youngsters--and AG 3--the veterans--each account for about a fourth of the CGs, with the oldsters--AG 4--accounting for the remaining one-tenth.

What we're curious to see, however, is whether CGs for the youngest group tend to cluster at either end of the season. It would make sense at the end of the year, when roster limits are expanded, for there to be a "prospect effect," where younger pitchers are given a shot (particularly by teams who are out of contention).

And it's also possible that something similar is at work in April (and possibly May), where young guys are given more of an opportunity to "prove themselves" by "going all the way"--which leads us to that burning question posed by Frank Zappa: "Would you go all the way for the USA?"